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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Report Highlights California Judges’ Diversity

(CN) - Since retaking office in 2011, California Gov. Jerry Brown has moved to diversify state courts through a host of minority and openly gay appointees, according to data released Friday.

According to the governor's office, nearly 40 percent of his appointees identify as nonwhite, with 15 percent of his judicial appointments being Hispanic and 11 percent black. The Democratic governor appointed 74 judges in 2015, and 311 so far since being re-elected in 2011.

Over the last five years Brown has also appointed 15 judges from the LGBT community, including Marsha Slough to the Fourth Appellate District and Luis Lavin on the Second Appellate District.

Slough currently chairs the California Judicial Council's Technology Committee and was initially appointed to the bench by Gov. Gray Davis in 2003. Slough served as presiding judge of the San Bernardino County Court and became the first openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender judge in the history of the Fourth Appellate District following Brown's appointment in December.

Lavin elevated to the Second Appellate District in July 2015 after serving over 13 years as a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, and became the first openly gay judge to serve on the LA-based appeals court. A Harvard Law School graduate, Lavin presided over writs and California Environmental Quality Act cases at the trial court and also taught at the USC School of Law and Southwestern Law School.

The judicial-applicant demographic data is collected by the Judicial Council and the California State Bar, and the governor's office is required to release the statewide info on all applicants by March 1.

In 2012, judicial applications were modified to include voluntary questions about sexual orientation and in 2014 questions regarding disability and veteran status were added.

Other notable appointments Brown's office highlighted include Paul Lo, who became the first Hmong-American judge to serve in the United States. Brown appointed Lo to the Merced County Superior Court in December 2013.

Bruce Smith became the first black judge to serve on the Fifth Appellate District after serving as supervising judge at the Fresno County Superior Court. Prior to the bench, Smith was a partner at Stammer, McKnight, Barnum and Bailey and a deputy district attorney for Fresno County.

Women made up more than 38 percent of Brown's nominations. They include Kathleen O'Leary who became the first female presiding judge in the Fourth Appellate District, Division III. Prior to her appointment O'Leary served as an associate judge for the appeals court and spent 14 years with the Orange County Superior Court.

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